More choice for diners means more eating out

TUCK IN: Kate Grange, a manager at Pure Cafe, which specialises in  raw food and paleo options.
TUCK IN: Kate Grange, a manager at Pure Cafe, which specialises in raw food and paleo options.

Cantabrians are spending more on dining out than ever before, with raw food dishes and Mexican cuisine emerging as popular options.

The latest annual Hospitality Report released by the Restaurant Association of New Zealand (RANZ) today showed the amount spent on dining out in Canterbury was projected to surpass $1 billion this year, with the average Cantabrian spending about $1632.

RANZ chief executive Marisa Bidois said people were dining out more often, but spending less on each visit. They were also being offered more choices, with the number of outlets in Canterbury expected to rise from 1672 last year to 1739 this year.

This is still below a peak of 1915 just before Canterbury's earthquakes, but more venues continue to open.

"People are excited again about our industry," Bidois said.

The Hospitality Report noted a rise in the popularity of raw food options, locally-sourced food, shared and small plates, and South and North American cuisine, particularly Mexican.

The Monday Room owner Hennie Murray said sharing plates "wouldn't even fly" in Christchurch two or three years ago, but Cantabrians had finally caught up with the trend.

"It's become quite a social and nice way of eating. People appreciate getting to try different things rather than sit on one plate of food all night."

Di and Mike McCauley provide raw food and paleo options to health-conscious eaters from their Pure Cafe branches on Birmingham Dr and Bealey Ave.

Those following the increasingly popular diet avoid eating grains, dairy and processed foods and focus on meats, vegetables and greens. Di McCauley said more people were turning to paleo options as they became more concerned about their health.

"People are starting to cotton on that maybe the way we're eating isn't serving us well any more," she said.

Restaurateur Tony Astle - who owns Victoria St venues Mexicanos, The Dirty Land and King of Snake - said he focused on providing a fun and "edgy" environment.

He believed it was important to have different price "points", ensuring his venues were accessible for diners who came out once a year, as well as those who went out once a week.

RANZ Canterbury branch president Sam Crofskey said the past three years had been tough for the hospitality industry, but there was a growing opportunity for new venues to "do things right".

"The overall quality of hospitality in Christchurch has increased and I think patrons have responded to that," he said.

The industry was thrown "wide open" by the quakes, giving new operators a chance to be bold and offer new things.

"We're no longer going to be a poor cousin of Wellington or Auckland. Christchurch will become its own unique thing and I'm really excited about that," Crofskey said.

The Press